Dillon v. Legg

68 Cal. 2d 728, 69 Cal. Rptr. 72, 441 P.2d 912 (1968)

 

RULE:

In determining a case where plaintiff suffers a shock that resulted in physical injury, whether defendant should reasonably foresee the injury to plaintiff, or, in other terminology, whether defendant owes plaintiff a duty of due care, the courts will take into account such factors as the following: (1) Whether plaintiff was located near the scene of the accident as contrasted with one who was a distance away from it. (2) Whether the shock resulted from a direct emotional impact upon plaintiff from the sensory and contemporaneous observance of the accident, as contrasted with learning of the accident from others after its occurrence. (3) Whether plaintiff and the victim were closely related, as contrasted with an absence of any relationship or the presence of only a distant relationship.

FACTS:

Plaintiff appealed the dismissal of her action to recover damages for emotional trauma and physical injury caused by witnessing the death of her infant daughter, who was struck and killed by a car negligently driven by defendant.

ISSUE:

May defendant be liable for emotional harm caused to the plaintiff due to his negligence?

ANSWER:

Yes.

CONCLUSION:

The trial court dismissed plaintiff's action because she was not within the "zone of danger," but refused to dismiss a complaint filed on behalf of another of plaintiff's infant daughters, whom the court determined to be within the zone of physical impact. The court reversed the judgment, holding that the "zone of danger" doctrine was improperly restricted to those exposed to physical injury. The court extended the doctrine to encompass those exposed to emotional injury, expressly overruling Amaya v. Home Ice Fuel & Supply Co., 379 P.2d 513 (Cal. 1963), to the extent it was inconsistent with its ruling.

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